Seven Churches – Ephesus: The Loveless Church (B)

Seven Churches – Ephesus: The Loveless Church (B)

Salutation – Rev 2:1

To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, “These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.”

The angel is the presiding bishop of the church. Timothy was the pastor of the congregation at Ephesus.

The seven stars are the seven pastors of the seven churches. The seven golden lampstands (seven-branched Menorah’s) represent the seven churches.

God’s right hand represents strength, safety, protection, honor and blessing. In other words, Jesus was holding the seven pastors in the palm of His hand. He was upholding them with His righteous right hand.

Assets – Rev 2:2-3

I know your works – your deeds and actions

Your labor – industry, activity

Your patience – endurance, stability

And that you cannot bear those who are evil – holiness expressed in hatred of evil

And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars – spiritual discernment

You have persevered and have patience – you have stuck in there and have forbearance

And have labored for My Name’s sake – not labored for themselves, but for the Lord.

And have not become weary – have waited on God, Isaiah 40:31

You hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate – a false sect which had also infiltrated the church of Pergamos

Liabilities – Rev 2:4-5

Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love – hearts have grown cold. Lack of love for Jesus and for one another.

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent – Get back to the basics or your light (revelation) will be removed.

This verse could possibly be interpreted as the Lord removing the church unless they return to their first love.

The church of Ephesus was busy doing the work of the ministry.  They started out right (reaching out to people because of the love of God in their hearts).  However, they got off track and their motivations for doing things changed.  Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 that if we speak in tongues, prophesy, have all knowledge, give to the poor, have faith to move mountains, give our body to be martyred … yet have not love, it profits us nothing.

Our personal relationship with God is our first priority. It’s from that intimacy with the Lord that we reach out in ministry.

Promise – Rev 2:7

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.

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Seven Churches – Ephesus: The Loveless Church (A)

Seven Churches – Ephesus: The Loveless Church (A)

Historical City

Ephesus had been the home of the Apostle John for several years before he was exiled to the Isle of Patmos. John cared for Mary, the mother of Jesus, until her death. According to author Rick Renner of the book entitled A Light in Darkness, there is historical evidence that Mary lived in Ephesus. The most significant evidence of Mary’s residency is that a church was named in her honor (the first church to be named in her honor). Churches were built in honor of local saints at that time, so it’s reasonable to conclude that Mary was a local resident.

Author Rick Renner also states that John lived in a Christian community right on the outskirts of Ephesus at a location known as Mount Ayasuluk. This small Christian community was situated high above the temple of Artemis, just beyond the notice of Roman authorities.

A higher level of toleration was given to people living outside the city limits because their refusal to conform to local standards was not as obvious. The authorities were more concerned about in-town citizens who violated Roman law or the Emperor’s edicts for all to worship him. There was more freedom for believers to gather together and for spreading the Gospel.

Rick Renner goes on to say that the most important reason John lived on the outskirts of the city is because he had oversight of all the churches in Asia Minor. He met with leaders who traveled to see him. If they had met within the city limits of Ephesus, the situation would have been more dangerous and a higher chance of being arrested.

Ephesus was an important seaport on the Mediterranean, handling more trade than any other city in Asia Minor. People of many nationalities were drawn to this center of commerce where wealth flowed in abundance.

It was at Ephesus that Paul asked the brethren, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” and they answered, “We have not as much heard whether there be any Holy Ghost” (Acts 19:2). Paul laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit, and he stayed in the city two years. All they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks (Acts 19:10).

Paul’s preaching impacted the commerce of Ephesus since one of the major businesses was the making of silver shrines in honor of Diana. Ephesus boasted of a temple larger than the Greek Parthenon in honor of this many-breasted goddess. Worship of Diana was the worship of sexual lasciviousness.

As the city began to feel the impact of the Gospel, Demetrius, a silversmith, called the craftsmen together (Acts 19:25-27). The Gospel was affecting their income because they were getting less business. The town clerk succeeded in quieting the uproar and dismissed the assembly. The opposition to Paul was only the beginning of persecution for the Ephesian church.

Today the city of Ephesus lies in ruins.

Seven Churches – Maps

Maps of the Seven Churches

The seven churches, during the time that John wrote to the churches in 95 AD, was located in Asia Minor, which is present-day Turkey.  John was exiled on the Isle of Patmos in the Aegean Sea when persecution was fierce against Christians.  While on Patmos, he had the vision of Jesus Christ and all the things he wrote about in the Book of Revelation.

Each church was situated along a major highway in the Roman Empire.  The distance from one church to the next closest church was anywhere from 20 – 50 miles away.

To see maps of the seven churches, please go to:

https://kathleendeniseriley.blogspot.com/2011/05/pt-24-seven-churches-maps-of-seven.html

Seven Churches in Revelation 2-3 – Introduction

Pt. 1: Seven Churches in Rev 2-3 – Introduction

I am starting a series of teaching on the Seven Churches in Revelation 2-3.  We will also be covering Chapter 1 of Revelation, and just briefly touching on some other things in the Book of Revelation.

The author of Revelation is the Apostle John the Beloved.  Historians believe John wrote this book around 95-96 AD.  John was caught up in a vision while exiled on the Isle of Patmos.  He saw the Throne Room in Heaven, the casting down of Lucifer from Heaven, and end-time happenings.

Although the focus in the Body of Christ, generally speaking, is usually on end-time events and the rapture as it concerns the Book of Revelation, the theme of this Book is that it’s a revelation or unveiling of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the focal point, not the Anti-Christ or things that will transpire in the last days.

The primary focus of this series will be on the letters written to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3.  John the Beloved sent a letter to each of the seven churches.

When John beheld Jesus in His majesty and glory in Revelation 1, Jesus is actually the One who spoke the messages to each of the seven churches and John wrote down the vision exactly as he saw and heard it.

In each letter, John addresses each church in the same format.

  1. Salutation to the pastor or leaders of the church
  2. Commendations (the things they are doing right)
  3. Liabilities (the things where they have missed the mark and have gotten off track)
  4. Promises to those who overcome (promises are given to each of the seven churches)
  5. Each letter is ended with the admonition: “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

There are three major interpretations of the messages to the seven churches.  I would also like to add a fourth possible interpretation.

  1. The seven churches represent seven actual churches in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) existing at the time the book was written and the messages apply to them.
  2. The seven churches are representative of periods in church history during the Church Age from the Apostolic Church to the end of the Age of Grace.
  3. The seven churches are prophetic pictures of end-time churches and the admonitions may be applied to given churches in this day.
  4. The seven churches represent seven major groups of people within the Corporate Body of Christ.

The most meaningful interpretation of the above is that they are all correct.

In my Shiloh Bible College handbook on the Seven Churches, which is written by Instructor Ed Cogan and the Bible College Staff, they also point out the correlation between the seven churches and the seven seals, trumpets and vials.  Also, they show the association between the seven churches and the Kingdom parables in Matthew 13 and the seven doctrines listed in Hebrews 6:1-2.

Here is a chart listing each of the seven churches, and how it correlates to the church history period:

Seven Churches

Jesus is still saying to the Church today, “I know thy works.”  He is still examining motives, longing for fellowship with His people, and extending promises to those who choose to be overcomers in this life for His sake and that of the Gospel.

Revelation is the only book in the Bible which promises a blessing to those who read it.  “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein for the time is at hand” (Rev 1:3).

It is also the only book in the Bible which pronounces a curse on anyone who adds to it or takes away from it.  Revelation 22:18-19 says:

18 “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

Seven times in the Book of Revelation the Lord says, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.”  The Lord has a message for us in each of the seven churches.  May we hear what the Spirit is saying to us today.

 

Asking Amiss – Part 3

We are talking about what asking amiss really means.  So far, we’ve seen that it involves the tongue.  With the tongue we can curse or bless.  Choose to bless others.

We’ve also seen that asking amiss involves “worldly wisdom”, which is opposite of the wisdom that comes down from Heaven.

This post will deal with the motivations of the heart, taken from James 4:1-3.

James 4:1-3 (New Living Translation)

1 What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?

2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.

3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

The KJV words Verse 3 like this:  “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”

The word “amiss” in the Greek means:  to ask wrongly or with wrong motives or wicked intentions, usually for selfish gain without regard for others (or no intention of using what you get to bless others with it).

The word “consume” in the Greek means:  to squander, to waste, to misuse, to throw away, a lack of stewardship and of being responsible with what you have.

The word “lusts” in the Greek is in reference to riotous living, no self-discipline or self-control, indulgence in sinful pleasures, greed, covetousness, allowing things to control you.

God is against financial corruption, dishonesty, bribery, fraud, extortion, theft, exploitation, sexual immorality, vice, evil.

God looks at the heart and intentions when we ask Him for things. Those who have a pure heart and right intentions would not ask amiss.

Nowhere in any of these passages is it implying that it would be selfish on our part to ask God to bless us with an abundant supply in order that we may have everything we need for everyday living.

God is a King and His children are supposed to be princes and princesses.

Besides asking the Lord for financial blessings, I don’t see anywhere in the Bible where asking God for non-material blessings is wrong. For example, asking God for the husband or wife of His perfect will for you, asking God for children, asking the Lord for godly friends, asking God for healing, asking God for wisdom or asking God for anything else that is good and positive.

The devil is a thief who wants to steal everything from you (John 10:10a).

Jesus is the opposite – He is Righteous and Good.  He came to give us life, and life more abundantly, till it overflows (John 10:10b).

The word “overflow” gives the picture of being so full that you cannot contain it anymore—it begins to spill over.  If you fill a glass with water and keep the water spout on, the water will reach the top of the glass and then begin to spill over.

This is the picture of the Lord’s desire to bless His children.  He wants to fill us with life and blessings—not just until we are full, but keep pouring it on until we are overflowing.

Religion says that God will meet our needs, but not our wants. God is a wonderful, generous father who delights in meeting both our needs and wants.  (Every person and every culture may have their own definition of a need and a want.)

God does not necessarily distinguish between a need and a want. He is generous.

Psalms 37:4 says that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart.

That word “delight” is the Hebrew word anag. It means to be soft and pliable. God is the Potter and we are the clay, and He wants us to allow Him to mold us into the vessel that He wants to design us into. He wants us to allow Him to have His way in our lives.

The word delight also means to take pleasure in the Lord, to love Him and to worship Him.

Asking Amiss – Part 2

Jesus said that if we meet this requirement of abiding in Him and He in us (John 15:7), then we may ask what we desire and it shall be done for us.

If we are truly abiding in Him, then we will be in touch with the Lord’s heart and most likely would never ask amiss because our motives would be pure and we would want to please Him.

When you are in love with someone you want to please that person.  Love is unselfish and always giving.  If you are in love with Jesus, and love others, it’s hardly likely you would ask anything amiss.

In the previous posts, we talked about the tongue and about abiding in Christ.  The tongue has the power to curse or bless.  Choose blessing.

The next passage we are going to discuss is James 3:13-18 to help us understand the context in which James talks about asking amiss.

James 3:13-18 talks about the “so-called” wisdom of this world versus living our lives according to the Godly Wisdom from Heaven. If we live according to Heaven’s wisdom, then it’s very unlikely we would ask amiss.

Godly Wisdom Worldly Wisdom
A spirit of humility Pride, prejudice and arrogance
Taking others’ needs into consideration Selfish ambition
Using our tongue to bless and encourage others Using the tongue to put other people down, to injure others
Treating others the way you want to be treated Manipulating others for selfish gain, with no regard for the feelings of others
Sowing seeds of peace Sowing seeds of strife
Allowing God to promote you Stepping on others to get ahead
Being kind and doing good to others Being mean-spirited and malicious
Esteeming others Trying to look better than others
Edifying Others Tearing others down
Encouraging Others Discouraging Others
Secure in who you are in God Bitter jealousies
Wanting to help others succeed Purposely seeking others’ demise
Living a holy life Living for the devil
Being gentle and reasonable Being cold-hearted, blood-thirsty
Integrity and Honesty Two-faced, Deception, Lying, Cheating
Showing others dignity and honor Showing disrespect and dishonor
Helping the poor Exploiting the poor
A spirit of giving and generosity Stinginess, selfishness, greed

Asking Amiss – Part 1

You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it (Matthew 21:22  NLT).

In this verse, the Greek word for “anything” (or “all things” in the KJV) is pas.  It is defined as:  all, any, every, the whole.

Therefore, “anything” means “anything”.

In my spirit, I could sense some people saying, “Yes, but what about James 4:3 that says that you ask, but do not receive, because you ask amiss.”

I am now going to address what asking amiss means.

We will begin with James 3:1-12.

This first passage is about using the tongue for good or evil and how we treat other people:

James 3:1-12 (Message Bible)

1 Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards.

2 And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths. If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you’d have a perfect person, in perfect control of life.

3 A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse.

4 A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds.

5 A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire.

6 A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.

7 This is scary: You can tame a tiger,

8 but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer.

9 With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image.

10 Curses and blessings out of the same mouth! My friends, this can’t go on.

11 A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it?

12 Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you? Live Well, Live Wisely.

People ask amiss when they have wrong attitudes in their heart to begin with.  Jesus said that whatever a person speaks, it proceeds from the overflow of their heart.  The heart is the center of our being.  From the heart can flow good things or evil things.

If a person’s heart and attitude is not right, and they are in the habit of speaking words of cruelty, negativity, doubt, fear, unbelief, cursing, deceit—then they will probably ask God for things from wrong motives, lusts or greed, or things contrary to the Word of God because their heart and attitudes are not perfect before God.

Jesus said that we will be held accountable for every idle word which we have spoken (Matthew 12:36).

God is looking for a pure heart, and a tongue who speaks no guile.

Psalms 24:3-5 says:

3 Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?

Or who may stand in His holy place?

4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,

Nor sworn deceitfully.

5 He shall receive blessing from the Lord,

And righteousness from the God of his salvation.

John 15:7 says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” NKJV

To abide in Jesus is to be connected to Him and in intimate union with Him, thus bearing good fruit in your life. The picture in the natural is of the branch receiving its nourishment from the Vine. A branch cut off from the Vine will wither up and die.

If you are abiding in Jesus and in intimate fellowship with the Holy Spirit, you probably would not ask anything amiss in the first place. It would be your heart’s desire to please Him and to live according to His Word. Your heart and motivations would be right.

If there is anyone reading who is not connected to Jesus, He is inviting you to come to Him. He loves you so very much! Maybe some have never accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Maybe others once knew the Lord but are backslidden and feel disconnected to the Lord—they feel like that branch that is severed from the trunk. Jesus is inviting you to come to Him right now.

Just call out to Him and invite Him to come into your heart. You can pray a prayer in your own words, or here is a sample prayer:

Dear Lord Jesus,

I feel disconnected from You. I want to be saved! I want to become connected (or re-connected) to You, as the branch receives its life from the Vine.

Jesus, I confess that You are Lord. Wash away all of my sins. Cleanse me in the Blood of the Lamb. Write my name in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Jesus, I invite You to come into my heart and I accept You as my Savior and Lord.

Fill me with Your Holy Spirit. I need You and want You so very much. Fill me with the joy and peace of Your Presence dwelling on the inside of me. Let me know the joy of my salvation.

Transform me into the person You created me to be. Help me to live for You.

I want to live for You and I want to know You more. Teach me Your Word.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Where is Jesus right now? Do you feel His Presence in your heart?

You have just been born again.

Or if you were a backslider, you have now come back to God. The angels are rejoicing right now, and I am too. Father God rejoices over the prodigal coming home. He has the ring to put on your finger, the royal cloak to drape over your shoulders, and a party to celebrate you coming back to the fold.

Those who are involved in any kind of witchcraft, black magic, sorcery, the occult, horoscopes, astrology, psychics, anything of the dark side. … that is a sure way to become disconnected from the Vine very quickly, who is Jesus. Your powers are coming from demons.

Jesus is pleading with you to repent, and to renounce all witchcraft, or anything to do with the occult or demonic activity. This is very serious, and should you pass away right now, you could end up in hell unless you repent, because of being disconnected from the Vine.

If a branch is severed from the Vine, it will wither up and be destroyed. The Lord is pleading with you to return to Him.